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10 Thrilled-Packed Routes to the Top

Rock Climbers Train to Go Up in the World

May 21, 1987|JON D. MARKMAN | Markman is a Times copy editor.

Few sports test courage, strength and finesse as completely as rock climbing. It is a difficult and ultimately solitary activity that combines the rigors of dance, weightlifting and chess--challenging the mind as much as muscle.

While the sport's popularity has grown in recent years, the number of Southland organizations able to teach it has decreased because of the difficulty of obtaining liability insurance. Many are banding together under the aegis of the American Mountain Guides Assn. in an effort to certify instructors, make mountain guiding safer and thereby stabilize premiums.

A national certification program will not be in place until 1989, so investigate the qualifications of Southland instructors before signing up. Write for a list of the association's members and guides from AMGA secretary Katherine Kemble, P.O. Box 699, Leavenworth, Wash. 98826.

Following is a list of 10 places that teach climbing:

Vertical Adventures, 511 S. Catalina Ave., Unit 3, Redondo Beach, Calif. 90277, (213) 540-6517. Bob Gaines and his staff run a full climbing program. After two weekends, Gaines said, a novice should feel comfortable leading a moderately difficult climb. Two-day courses take place every weekend from November through April at Joshua Tree National Monument, and May through October at Tahquitz Rock in Idyllwild. The $112 "rockcraft" seminar covers Basic rock climbing on Saturdays and Intermediate I climbing on Sundays. Two instructors teach five to 10 students. The $135 Intermediate II seminar covers anchor systems and techniques for multipitch climbing on Saturdays and the fundamentals of leading on Sundays. Most students camp free overnight at Joshua Tree. Others stay at a motel in Yucca Valley or Joshua Tree for about $30. The classes are also available individually: $58 for basic rock climbing, $69 for Intermediate II and $75 each for Intermediate III and IV. After the two seminars, Gaines sets up a program for students, telling them what equipment to buy, how to train, where to climb and with whom to climb. Guides also teach by appointment during the week at Stony Point in Chatsworth and Mt. Rubidoux and Big Rock in Riverside. The company has five full-time guides and also offers a four-day alpine seminar at Sawtooth Ridge in the Sierra Nevada and a three-day waterfall ice-climbing seminar in the winter for $289 and rock climbing tours in Great Britain, France and Switzerland.

Sierra Club, Rock Climbing Section, Margo Koss, safety chairman, 4225 Via Arbolada, No. 557, Los Angeles, Calif. 90042, (213) 222-0319, (213) 227-4973. The RCS, a special-interest section of the Sierra Club, was founded in 1934. It conducts an annual rock-climbing course from mid-December through March. Application deadline is Oct. 15. The course consists of one orientation seminar, five to seven practice sessions at Stony Point in Chatsworth and Mt. Rubidoux in Riverside and a bus trip to a major climbing area. After instruction, students are invited to join the RCS on multipitch climbing trips to Idyllwild, Joshua Tree, Yosemite and Tuolumne. There are 40 to 50 people per class, with a 2-to-1 student- to-instructor ratio. Cost is about $85 for everything, including textbooks. "The price is low because all RCS instructors are volunteers--not professionals. We want to introduce people to climbing safety and to recruit people for the club," Safety Chairman Koss said. "We don't set any standard on technical abilities for membership, just safety." To become an RCS member, applicants must pass a test of safety skills and demonstrate their ability on four multipitch climbs. RCS plans a trip about every other weekend throughout the year, and every weekend in the summer, including some to the Palisades and the Minarets in the Sierra. The club also holds meetings at 7:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month at Griffith Park Ranger Auditorium, where there usually is a slide show or a movie about climbing.

Best Mountain Guiding, 24775 Fern Valley Road, Idyllwild, Calif. 92349, (714) 659-4796. Owner Malcolm Best said he decided recently to make all classes the same price and duration to avoid bookkeeping headaches. It is $120 for a full day of basic, intermediate or advanced instruction, $80 for a half day. Courses have no more than three students per instructor, and all are taught on weekends at Joshua Tree from fall through spring and Idyllwild in the summer. Best also teaches private advanced classes in big-wall technique for $120 a day.

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